Birchfield Primary School

Birchfield Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS27 7HU


The Birchfield Reading Skill Characters

Phonics and Reading


Phonics (reading and spelling)

At Birchfield Primary School we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Early Years and follow the Little Wandle progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school. 

At Birchfield, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects. 


At Birchfield, we value reading as a crucial life skill. We encourage children to see themselves as readers both for pleasure and purpose.

As we believe teaching every child to read is so important, we have a Reading Leader who drives the early reading programme in school. The Reading Leader, monitors and supports teachers to ensure fidelity to the Little Wandle programme. 



Daily phonics lessons in Early Years and Year 1

We teach phonics daily (currently twice to close gaps due to new scheme). In Early Years, we build from 10 minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week's teaching to help children become fluent readers.

Children make a strong start in Early Years: teaching begins in Week 2 of Autumn term. 

We follow the Little Wandle expectations of progress: 

  • Children in Early Years are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and word with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy. 
  • Children in Year 1 review Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy. 

Daily keep-up lessons ensure every child learns to read

Any child who needs additional practice has keep-up support, taught by a fully trained adult. Keep-up lessons match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning. 

We timetable daily phonics lessons for any child in Year 2 who is not fully fluent at reading or has not passed the Phonics Screening Check. These children urgently need to catch up, so the gap between themselves and their peers does not widen. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the keep-up resources - at pace. 

If any child in Year 3 to 6 has gaps in their phonic knowledge when reading or writing, we plan phonics 'catch-up' lessons to address specific reading/writing gaps. These short, sharp lessons last 10 minutes and take place at least three times a week. 

Teaching reading: Reading practice sessions three times a week

We teach any children who are not yet fluent readers, to read through reading practice sessions three times a week. These:

  • are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
  • use books matched to the children's secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle assessments and book matching grids
  • are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis 

Each reading practice session has a clear focus. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills: 

  • decoding
  • prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
  • comprehension: teaching children to understand the text

In Early Years, these sessions start once children can blend. Children who are not yet blending  have additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books. 

In Year 2 and 3, we continue to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books. 

Home reading

The decodable reading practice book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family. 

  • Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents to share and read to children
  • We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised parents' resources to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops. 

KS2 children choose a book from their classroom reading corner or the school library to take home. LKS2 children change their books weekly - the parents write a comment in their reading record. UKS2 children are encouraged to write their own comments on their Class Dojo profile.

Additional reading support for vulnerable children

Children who are receiving additional phonics keep-up sessions read their reading practice book to an adult 1:1 in school as well as in their reading practice group.

Ensuring consistency and pace of progress

Every teacher in our school has been trained to teach reading, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same language, routines and resources to teach children to read so that we lower children's cognitive load. 

Weekly content grids map each element of new learning to each day, week and term for the duration of the programme.

Lesson templates, prompt cards and how to videos ensure teachers all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.

The Reading Leader and SLT use the Audit and Prompt cards to monitor and observe teaching; they use the summative data to identify children who need additional support and gaps in learning.

Ensuring reading for pleasure

'Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child's success.' (OECD 2002)

We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy. 

  • We read to children every day. We choose books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including those that will reflect upon our local community and books that open windows into other cultures and worlds 
  • In Early Years, children have access to the reading corner every day in their free flow time and the books are continually refreshed
  • Children from Year 1 onwards have a home reading record. The parent/carer records comments to share with the adults in school. If children need to work on a specific sound or word this would be written in by the teacher so the parents/carers can help with this at home
  • The school library is made available for classes to use at protected times. Children across the school have regular opportunities to engage with a wide rang of events such as national events, book fayres and author visits



Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify children who may need additional support.

Assessment for learning is used: 

  • daily within class to identify children needing keep-up support
  • weekly in the review lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings

Summative assessment is used:

  • every six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the Keep-up sessions they need
  • by SLT and scrutinised through the Little Wandle assessment tracker, to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place

Statutory assessment

Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check in Spring 2. Any children who do not pass this will re-sit in Year 2. Keep-up sessions will be given to these children throughout Year 2 to ensure gaps are closed.

Ongoing assessment for catch-up

Children in Year 2 to 6 who need phonics support are assessed through their teacher's ongoing formative assessment as well as through the half-termly Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised summative assessments.